• Published 24th May 2013
  • 1,558 Views, 32 Comments

Like a Pegasus in a Pottery Shop - Fifths

A world-renowned flight master is passing through Ponyville, and Rainbow Dash wants to score some lessons from him. He's going to need a favor before he'll teach her or anypony else, however.

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Chapter 3


It was a little past noon, and Twilight was finally returning the last of the books to their proper places. She used her magic to slip the final tome, a fat one that sprayed dust when you touched it, back into its home. “The Complete Works of Immanuel Kolt goes right here after Stringy Jute’s Meditations, and that’s it for philosophy.” Twilight fell to her haunches and sighed at the sight of her restored library.

“Alright, I finished putting all your chemistry stuff back,” Spike grumbled as he climbed down from the loft. “Was there anything else you needed, Twilight?”

“No, Spike, I think that’s everything,” Twilight said. “You can go make yourself lunch now if you want.”

“Alright!” Spike waddled across the room and tripped through the doorway into the kitchen. There came a clanging of mixing bowls and a clinking of gemstones.

Twilight began to laugh softly for his enthusiasm, but the laugh turned into a yawn before it was finished. Twilight had been awake now for over thirty hours, and it was time for a much needed and well-deserved rest. She began to droop towards her bed, but then A History of Saddle Arabia snagged her eye from where she had left it on her writing desk. For a moment, the ornate calligraphy on its cover had transformed into sandy dunes full of ancient secrets and enigmatic sheikhs running across the moonlit desert. Twilight bit her lip.

“I’m just going to finish the chapter I was on, and that’s it,” Twilight told herself as she trotted over to her desk. She opened the book and quickly found the spot where she had left off, but before Twilight could get into it, her attention was grabbed by a little golden bird flying through the open window. She watched as the jittery creature nervously darted around the room before he went dashing out the open window opposite the one he had entered through. Twilight shrugged and settled back into her book.

There was no warning; a sudden blow, the beating of wings, and the library was already half destroyed. Pegasus after pegasus had struck through the window, and more were squeezing in after them. Soon there were dozens of them whirling about the library, and wherever they went, destruction followed.

“Did he really come in here? I can’t see him.”

Glass smashed. Wood groaned.

“Of course he did, stupid! He must be hiding.”

Stone cracked. Paper pulverized.

“Somepony come help me tip this thing over.”

They knocked down bookcases. They bashed open trunks. They ruffled the curtains. Twilight and Spike’s hours of hard work undone in mere seconds.

“AH!” Twilight bolted up. Magic surged through her, and sparks shot from her horn as she screamed. “GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT!” Fiery purple auras began engulfing the pegasi and purging them out through both open windows. Before the intruders could even spare a glance to find where the screaming was coming from, they found themselves spirited back outside in the warmth of the noontime sun.


“Twilight, stop! It’s me!”

Twilight looked up to see Rainbow Dash suspended in shimmering purple. Dash cracked a smile.

“Twilight!” Spike ran out of the kitchen, heart apron donned like armor and wooden mixing spoon held en garde. “Is everything–” He took in the newly disheveled library and threw the spoon to the ground. “Oh, come on!”

“It’s okay, Spike,” Twilight said. Thanks to her quick reaction, the library wasn’t in quite so bad a shape as it had been when Rainbow trashed it that morning. “You can go back and finish making your meal. I’ll take care of everything in here.”

Spike nodded. He shot a dirty glare at the suspended Rainbow Dash before turning back for the kitchen.

“Sheesh, what’s got his tail tied in a knot?” Dash said, waving him away with a purple-tinted hoof. “So, uh, you wanna let me down?”


“Uh, Twilight?”

“I’m thinking about it,” Twilight said. After a few long seconds, the aura around Dash finally dissipated into air and dropped her. Twilight used her magic to shut both windows and lock them before coming over to Rainbow.

“So, would you mind telling me why you pegasus ponies have been so intent on destroying my library today?”

“Heh heh, sorry about that, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash said. “See, Gerard has us chasing this golden sparrow of his—he’s gonna give lessons to the one who catches him—and we thought he came through here.”

“Glad to hear that you were able to put the anemometer that you ruined my library the first time for to–” Twilight stopped mid-snark and her ears pricked up. “Did-did you say golden sparrow? Do you mean to tell me that that little bird that passed through here was a golden sparrow? A real golden sparrow?”

“No, he was only a fake golden sparrow, a brass sparrow.” Dash rolled her eyes. “But hey, so he did pass through here? Which way’d he go?”

Twilight grabbed her by the face. “Rainbow Dash, this is important, so I need you to listen very, very carefully,” she said, eyeball to eyeball with her. “Did this sparrow have auburn stripes below his tail feathers?”

Twilight's words smelled like coffee and mint leaves. Rainbow Dash tried to nudge back from her, but Twilight was clamped on. “Uh yeah, reddish stripes, I think he had four,” Dash said. “I should know, been staring at his butt all morning.”

Twilight released Rainbow and galloped over to where she left her book of Saddle Arabian history. She flipped through to the spot she wanted, ran back to Rainbow Dash, and clocked her square in the muzzle with page 216. As Dash’s vision refocused, she found herself staring at a large illustration of a golden sparrow done in a peculiar foreign style. Twilight peeked over the top of the book at her with a big, silly grin.

Passer euchlorus, or the Arabian Golden Sparrow as it’s better known to layponies, occupies a very important place in the history and culture of Saddle Arabia,” Twilight lectured. “Legend has it they are descended from the rays of the first sunrise, and they embody both vitality and intelligence. Their feathers are revered as a symbol of wisdom, and it’s said that if you capture and cage one, you can force it to grant you eternal youth. They say that Hashala, the first caliph to unify all of Saddle Arabia, went into the desert to catch a golden sparrow so that he could reign forever. He had already caught the snake and the monkey in order to learn–”

Dash stared.

Twilight coughed and cleared her throat. “I, uh, read about it in my book,” she said. “I thought it was interesting.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s cool and all, Twi, but if that bird isn’t here anymore, then I really need to get.” Dash began to walk towards the library door, but then paused. “Hey Twilight, your book wouldn’t happen to have any tips about actually catching the sparrow now, would it?”

“Well, no,” Twilight said. “This book only mentions the sparrow as it relates to Saddle Arabian history and lore.”

Dash sighed. “Oh. Well, guess I’ll see you–”

“Now if you’re looking for information to help you actually capture the sparrow, you really need to check the zoology section,” Twilight piped as she trotted over to one of the many bookshelves. She gave a cursory glance at the tomes and pulled one out from towards the bottom right. “Here we are, Saddle Arabian Zoology.” Dash rushed over and smiled when she saw Twilight opened to a page full of sketches and notes on the sparrow. “And here is the section for Passer euchlorus: diet, environment, natural predators, nesting habits, mating rituals... it’s all right here.”

Rainbow Dash grinned at the meticulous script surrounding the illustrations. “That’s great, Twilight! With you and that book’s help, we’ll catch birdbrain and Gerard will be teaching me his Reverse Half Eight in no time!”

“Oh Dash, I can’t. I have to clean up the library… again… and after that I really need to get to sleep,” Twilight said. “I can lend you the book though, if you want,” she added when Rainbow started to make a face.

“Yeah, but can you lend me your big, freaky science brain to make sense of all the formulas and vectors and whatever in the book?” Dash asked.

“It’s biology...”

“Yeah exactly, science! You’re a wiz with that stuff!” Dash shrunk down before Twilight and put her front hooves together in supplication. “PLLLLLEASE Twilight, I really need your help.”

“Dash,” Twilight groaned. “I got stuck up all night reading that book about Saddle Arabia, and I’ve spent all morning cleaning up after you. I really need to get some sleep!”

“Oh yeah, reading about Saddle Arabia?” Dash asked, getting to her hooves. “Well guess what, Twilight, a little piece of Saddle Arabia is flying around Ponyville right now, and you’ve got the chance to live the story instead of just reading about it. Which would you rather do: catch up on a few z’s or follow in the hoofsteps of Caliph Asha-Lasha-Ha and catch a living, breathing legend?”

“Well, Hashala never actually caught the sparrow...” Twilight said.

“Great! Then we can be even BETTER than Hasha-La-Sha-Ha. Come on, what do you say?”

Twilight chewed her lip as all the great Saddle Arabian sayings concerning the sparrow came rushing back to her, all the sages, sheikhs, and poets waxing eloquently about the noble, little creature. When would she get another chance like this to match her wits against the swift and cunning sparrow of legend? And what if she did what all those wise sages, sheikhs, and poets never could and actually caught the sparrow? Finally she broke.

“Spike,” she called. “Get me my pith helmet!” Twilight smiled and extended a hoof to Rainbow Dash.

“Aw yeah!” There was a resounding, hollow clop as Rainbow Dash met Twilight with a hoofbump.

Spike’s head popped out of the kitchen a moment later. “Your what?”

“You know, my safari hat.”

“Oh, okay.”

Rainbow Dash was sitting on one of Ponyville’s highest rooftops from where she could survey the entire town. Seated next to her was Tank, the rotors on his shell spinning lightly in the breeze. She had a can about the size of a watermelon squeezed between her legs, marked with scratches and dents across its length.

Dash grunted as she tried to pierce the lid with a screwdriver. “Come on, come on.” She bit and twisted at the top of the can, but that only hurt her teeth, so she went back to the screwdriver. Tank watched his master’s antics, his vigil punctuated only by the occasional blink.

“Ugh, finally!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed when she managed to jam the screwdriver into the can’s top. She pried off the lid to reveal a smooth golden substance.

Rainbow Dash peeked over the roof’s edge to make sure the other pegasi were still around. She spied them tearing down a street, still hopelessly pursuing Gerard’s sparrow. Occasionally they would fly close enough for Rainbow Dash to feel the breeze off their wings, but they never once took notice of her or what she was doing.

“Hold your breath, buddy.”

Tank pressed his wrinkled lips together as Dash upended the bucket of paint over him. A deluge of viscous gold engulfed the tortoise and soaked into the thatched roof. Dash tossed the bucket aside once it was empty and studied her hoofwork. Tank’s green shell had been successfully gilded and now mimicked the sparrow’s colors almost perfectly. A fat dollop of paint wobbled back and forth from his chin as Tank slowly shook his head, trying to get himself dry.

Dash smiled and wiped away the droplet with her hoof. “Hey, that’s a pretty good look for you. Maybe we’ll leave that paint on for a while after this is all over, huh?”

Tank blinked.

Dash giggled and nuzzled him, the contact staining the tip of her nose gold. “Now we just have to wait for the right moment.”

It came sooner than expected. The pegasi were hard on the sparrow’s tail when he disappeared into a drain pipe far too small for them to follow. The ponies tracked down the pipe’s length to find where it let out, but soon were forced to a halt when it went underground.

“Where’d he go?” asked a straggler when he caught up with the pegasi hovering around the pipe.

“Looks like this is it,” Rainbow Dash said, picking up Tank and taking flight. “Remember, keep them away from Ponyville for as long as you can. Good luck!”

Rainbow Dash wound back and hurled Tank as hard as she could out towards the countryside. The mechanical rotors that gave the tortoise the power of flight began spinning, and he was off.

“HEY, EVERYPONY! LOOK!” Dash shouted. The crowd of pegasi craned their necks towards the voice and followed her outstretched hoof to the glint of gold rapidly receding into the distance. “HE’S GETTING AWAY!”

The pegasi tore off after the sparrow’s doppelganger and were soon no more than specks on the horizon. Rainbow Dash chuckled as she glided down to street level. She touched down in an alleyway where she found Twilight tinkering with her… monstrosity.

Twilight had set up a vast array of ropes, pulleys, and gears twisting around and about a junction between two intersecting alleyways. Metal and wire glinted menacingly, and the tautness of the rope suggested tension that could choke a full-grown dragon. Rainbow Dash didn’t even bother trying to trace the intricate web of zigzagging lines from start to finish.

Twilight walked over to the trap’s trigger at the heart of the junction, a bowl balanced upon a weight-activated mechanism, and began to very slowly and very carefully pour a box of birdseed into it.

“Alright, Twi, mission accomplished!” Dash called as she galloped over. “Tank should keep those posers busy for a while!”

Twilight jolted at the intrusion and stopped Rainbow Dash cold in her tracks with a death glare. She poured a little more of the seed into the trap and slowly backed away. She took Rainbow, and the two went to hide behind some of the local camouflage: two trash cans behind somepony’s house.

“Alright then. Now we’ve tried speed, and we’ve tried skill,” Twilight whispered. “But what we haven’t tried yet is brains.”


“Shhh, Rainbow,” Twilight hissed. “We’re incognito!”

Dash grumbled and crossed her forelegs. She had been really proud of her plan with Tank, too. “I’m not dumb…”

“No... of course not. You’re—” Twilight stifled a yawn. “You’re, you know... smart. In any case, that trap is set with Arabian millet, the sparrow’s favorite food. Once he lands on the bowl, he’ll be as good as caught.”

“I still don’t understand how that thing is supposed to work…” Rainbow Dash said, peering up at the terrifying web of gears and pulleys hanging about.

“It’s okay, Rainbow Dash, neither will the sparrow when he accidentally sets off the symphony of mechanical logic leading to his inevitable capture.” Twilight rubbed her hooves together with an almost diabolical savor. She yawned again, and Dash couldn’t help but notice the heavy bags under her eyes.

“Why don’t you just use your magic to capture the sparrow once he lands?”

“Oh Rainbow Dash, do you really expect such a pedestrian plan to succeed against such a cunning adversary?” Twilight asked. “My books say that Passer euchlorus is an incredibly dexterous and intelligent creature that will evade any direct attempts to capture him. So therefore we’ll just have to capture him indirectly! Don’t worry, my magic will come into play, but only when he least expects it.”

“Uh, okay...” Dash said.

“And now we wait,” Twilight said, putting up her binoculars. The full brunt of noon began to bear down upon them, and the heat wasn’t agreeing well with whatever was in those two trashcans. The two ponies lay in ambush behind the stinky garbage until Dash’s nose burned and her skin crawled. She started to get fidgety, but Twilight kept her binoculars ceaselessly trained upon the trap.

"Hey, uh, Twi...?” Dash whispered.


“What's with the binoculars?”


“The bowl is like ten feet away...”

Twilight smiled wearily at Rainbow Dash and patted her on the head. “We’re on a safari, Rainbow Dash, and whoever heard of a pony going on safari without a pair of binoculars? You might as well ask me what my pith helmet is for.”

Dash said nothing.

The pair continued to wait. Bored, Dash was batting at a banana peel hanging out the side of her trash can when she caught a glint of gold from the corner of her eye. Dash elbowed Twilight and pointed as the sparrow entered the alleyway.

“THERE HE I–” Her proclamation was cut short when a magic aura wrapped around her muzzle and forced her jaw shut.

The sparrow flitted about, darting here and bobbing there to examine the shiny cogs and suspended lengths of rope. He began to draw towards the trap’s trigger. Dash’s heart was pounding through her chest as the sparrow came and hovered above the bowl. Finally he landed on the rim and began to peck at the seed.

The trigger depressed under the sparrow’s weight, and a number of buzzes and clicks sounded as the long, convoluted chain of cause and effect was activated. Rainbow Dash watched eagerly as the motion traveled up then down, across and around, side to side, left to right, north by northeast and then up and down once again. Wheels were turning, weights went dropping, ropes went whizzing, and gears were interlocking until...


...suddenly the motion had ceased at one of the high pulleys.

Rainbow Dash looked from the pulley to the sparrow still picking at the seed, back to the pulley, and finally to Twilight next to her. “It stopped going. Why isn’t it going?!”

Twilight squinted up at the pulley. “Drat, one of the inner gears must be stuck. Quick, Rainbow Dash, fly up and fix whatever’s sticking it.”

“The bird is sitting right there,” Dash said through gritted teeth. “Why don’t you just use your magic force field?”

“Because that isn’t until step 17! Just go and unstick it.”

Dash muttered something under her breath and flew up to examine the malfunctioning pulley. The sparrow looked on curiously as she poked and prodded at the thing. Rainbow Dash peered inside the device and saw where the rope had gotten stuck on a sharp edge. She gripped her teeth around where the rope came out the other end and began tugging and jerking in an effort to free it. This only caused the rope to saw against the sharp edge which it had stuck itself on. It soon cut through, and the release of tension sent the rope whipping away with Rainbow Dash clenched onto the cracking end of it.

“WHOOOOOA!” Dash spat out the rope, but the angle at which she had spread her wings and stiffened her torso and legs to correct herself served to turn her body into an effective boomerang. The sparrow chewed his millet and watched as Rainbow Dash went sickle spinning around the alley.

Twilight yelped as Dash rounded about and bowled straight into the trash cans where she lay hiding. Milk cartons, eggshells, and week-old pasta sauced in spoiled mayonnaise rained down on the pair. The release of tension caused Twilight’s elaborate system of ropes and pulleys to come crashing down atop and around them. Levers snapped, gears flew like shurikens, and soon the entire alley junction—save for a rough circle hewn around the sparrow and his meal—was littered in debris. The sparrow took another bite or two before spreading his wings and flying off. Almost as an afterthought, a net fell down over the now-vacant bowl of seed.

Rainbow Dash dug her way out of the debris and squinted at where the sparrow had been.

“A net?” she asked. “A NET?!? Are you telling me that whole elaborate how-do-you-do was all to spring some stupid net?!?”

Garbage and gears magically lifted away as Twilight resurfaced. “It was…” she gasped, “a distraction tactic. The sparrow would be looking everywhere but up.”

Rainbow Dash flew over and picked up the flimsy, flaxen thing. “A net, that’s just great. I saw this intricate webbing up there and I thought, like, it would focus the sunlight into...” Dash examined the weaving “...bars for some kind of, I don’t know, sun prison or something. But no, just a net.” She threw it down with the rest of the garbage.

“It would have worked if it wasn’t for that simple calibration error. We just need–” Twilight paused to yawn yet again. “We just need to set it up and try again, that’s all. And I’ve got an idea to make it even more foolproof. I think this time we can work some rudimentary hypnosis into how the gears–”

“Ugh, just stop, Twilight,” Dash said, shaking off trash that still clung to her. “Look, it was a mistake making you come out here. Just go home and get some sleep before you start drawing up plans for a pulley-powered toothbrush or something.”

“But I... hmm...” Twilight rubbed a hoof under her chin. “That would certainly make life a little easier for you pegasi and earth ponies. The mechanics would be relatively simple, and I think maybe even a toothpaste dispenser could be–”

“NO!” Rainbow Dash roared. “Stop it! Go home!”

Twilight frowned. “But–but what about the sparrow?”

“What about the sparrow?” Dash spat and went ripping across the sky.

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